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Home > INSTITUTIONS & HISTORY > HISTORY > The years of the Franco regime

The years of the Franco regime

The longest dictatorship

General Franco establishes a dictatorial regime characterised by repression and a destitute economy. The 1959 and 1968 Stabilisation Plans and the 1963 Development Plan laid the foundations for for the economic take-off.

The definition of the new regime The new regime was characterised by three factors: the repression of the defeated faction, a desperately poor economy and a modification of the internal equilibrium as a result of the worldwide changes brought about by the Second World War.

The new government remained isolated, despite first declaring itself neutral and later “non-belligerent”. Franco held talks with Hitler and Mussolini and foreign policy was placed in the hands of Serrano Suñer, a Germanophile.

Francoist diplomacy played the anti-Communist card, but could not avoid the condemnation of the UN, the withdrawal of ambassadors and the closure of the French frontier.

In economic terms, international isolation and, to a lesser extent, ideological motives led to the introduction of self-reliance and corporative policies that, to a greater or lesser degree, were a feature of the regime throughout its history.

In agricultural terms there was a shocking recession compared to previous periods, which led to a lack of basic provisions and rationing.

The Cold War and economic development

The beginning of the Cold War was a lifeline for the Franco regime, although Spain continued to be excluded from the reconstruction of Europe. Almost simultaneously in 1953 the Holy See signed a Concordat and the United States a reciprocal military aid treaty.

In politics, the UN accepted the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 1950 and in 1955 Spain took its seat in the international forum. A year later saw the end of the Moroccan protectorate and the country became independent.

The first timid signs of social unrest appeared in Barcelona strike of 1951 and again in 1956, accompanied by the first student protests.

Extraordinarily high inflation led to the need for a Stabilisation Plan (1959) that mitigated the lack of foreign currency. This caused economic stagnation and renewed unrest in Asturias, but led to the drawing up of the First Development Plan (1963), which was indicative for private business and binding for the public sector. So-called “development poles” were established to promote regional and zonal development.

The Stabilisation Plan, drawn up according to the guidelines laid down by the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation, helped get the economy into order and laid the foundations for the implementation of the self-sufficiency model. Following these guidelines, the peseta was devalued in 1967 and in 1968 the Second Development Plan, similar to the first one, was implemented.

The population reached 33 million, 12 million of whom made up the working population (38.3%) which was divided into three almost equal parts: agriculture (28%), industry (38%) and services (34%). There were large internal migratory flows from depressed farming areas to the industrial cities (Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona, etc.) and large parts of the labour force went elsewhere in Europe in search of better opportunities. The foreign currency they sent back made a decisive contribution to improving Spain’s balance of payments.

In the 1960s, with a population of 33 million, there was massive migration to the industrial cities and abroad

Politically the regime attempted to structure the so-called “organic democracy” by holding a referendum on the Organic Law of the State (1966). Two years later Equatorial Guinea gained its independence.

The agony of the dictatorship

Economic change brought about social change. The politicians born out of the Civil War –soldiers, Falangists, traditionalists, Catholic nationalists– were replaced by technocrats –generally senior civil servants– who proposed the need for economic growth and plans for the future.

This translated into an easing of tension, the re-establishment of relations with the countries of the East and the signing in 1970 of a preferential trade agreement with the Common Market.

One year earlier, on 22 July 1969, Parliament had designated Don Juan Carlos de Borbón, the grandson of Alphonse XIII and Prince of Spain, as the next Head of State and king.

Opposition to the Franco regime had been intensifying since the beginning of the 1960s.

In addition to the activities on the international stage of politicians and institutions in exile, internal opposition movements had been growing: students, teachers and intellectuals presented a democratic and left-wing ideological front, together with a working class whose platform for struggle consisted of the trade unions and civic bodies. These movements were the origin of the political forces that would become the protagonists of the subsequent transition.

In the political field, the institution of the Monarchy, in the person of the Count of Barcelona, Don Juan de Borbón, raised the need for a return to democracy. A very active PCE (Spanish Communist Party) had launched its national reconciliation policy and proposed toppling the regime by peaceful means. The socialists and Christian democrats also raised the need for a return to democracy as the only possibility of integrating with Europe.

By the beginning of the 70s, nobody doubted that the end was in sight and that once the political figure of Franco was no longer present, Francoism without Franco would be unviable.

The distancing of the Church was also notable. Grassroots priests, particularly in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Madrid, were openly critical of the regime. Certain prelates also joined the chorus of criticism. While all this was going on, there was also a radicalisation of nationalist positions and ETA began its terrorist activities.

Nationalist positions became radicalised and the ETA terrorist group, responsible for the assassination of Prime Minister Carrero Blanco in 1973, was founded

At the end of 1969, a new, mainly technocrat cabinet was formed, which made way for another in June 1973. It was short-lived as in December of that year its leader, Carrero Blanco, was assassinated by ETA.

The post of prime minister was taken on by Arias Navarro, who formed the last Francoist cabinet. Franco was taken ill with thrombophlebitis in July 1974 and on 30 October 1975 Prince Juan Carlos became temporary head of state. Franco died on 20 November.

On 22 November, Juan Carlos I was crowned king of Spain. A chapter in our history was closed forever and the gates of freedom and hope were opened up for the people of Spain.

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